Arlington’s Samara Morrow, Jersey Walker and Jenna Villa walk off the court after losing to Lake Washington in the 3A semifinal on Friday, March 3, 2023, at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Arlington’s Samara Morrow, Jersey Walker and Jenna Villa walk off the court after losing to Lake Washington in the 3A semifinal on Friday, March 3, 2023, at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Arlington girls’ title dreams dashed by Lake Washington

The Eagles can’t hold off the Kang’s second-half surge and fall 70-64 in the semifinals; Arlington will face Mead for third place Saturday.

TACOMA — The Arlington High School girls basketball team put together a first half that had the Eagles looking as if they were poised to push through to the state finals and end a painful run of semifinal losses.

The Eagles built a 34-26 lead at the break behind red-hot shooting from beyond the arc and a big advantage in the turnover battle.

But it all started to unravel for Arlington in the second half.

Lake Washington took control defensively with its zone and flustered the Eagles into a number of turnovers. While Arlington struggled to regain its rhythm offensively, the Kangaroos hit their stride as they started attacking the basket and 3-pointers started falling.

Senior guard Rae Butler Wu put Lake Washington ahead for good with a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 57 seconds remaining and the third-seeded Kangaroos handed the second-seeded Eagles their third consecutive state semifinals loss in a 70-64 final in the Class 3A state tournament at the Tacoma Dome.

“We just kind of got discombobulated against that zone,” Arlington coach Joe Marsh said. “We weren’t aggressive. You could see we were just kind of standing and didn’t really know what to do, which is unlike us frankly. Sometimes I think the big stage gets to kids late in games when the other team makes a run and you gotta withstand it.”

Lake Washington (26-2) advances to face top-seeded Garfield for the state championship at 3 p.m. Saturday. Arlington (22-3) falls to the third/fifth-place game and faces fourth-seeded Mead at 11:15 a.m. Saturday.

Standout senior guard Jenna Villa scored a game-high 26 points and had six rebounds, two steals and two blocks for the Eagles. Sophomore forward Kierra Reese added 10 points and six rebounds and junior point guard Samara Morrow added nine points, four assists and two steals.

Senior forward Jolie Sim led a balanced effort with 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists for the Kangaroos. Senior forward Sydney Hani added 12 points and eight rebounds, sophomore guard Paige Citron had 12 points and six rebounds and Butler Wu chipped in eight points.

Arlington led by as many as 10 points in the first half after sophomore Kierra Reese connected on a 3-pointer for a 34-24 lead with 1:12 left in the second quarter. Reese’s 3-pointer was her team’s seventh of the first half as the Eagles made 70% of their attempts from beyond the arc over the first 16 minutes.

Arlington entered the break holding an 11-5 advantage in the turnover battle, which resulted in a 12-2 lead in points off turnovers. But Lake Washington flipped the script in the second half.

The Kangaroos switched to a zone defense that slowed down the Eagles’ offensive attack, and they started to chip away at their deficit with a mix of attacking the basket for layups and knocking down shots from the outside.

Hani drained a triple and Citron split a pair of free throws to pull Lake Washington within 44-43. Morrow responded with a 25-footer to push the Eagles’ lead back to four points, but Sim delivered a 3-ball immediately after and Citron sent the game into the fourth tied at 47 after splitting another pair of shots at the line.

Hani’s layup to open the fourth-quarter scoring gave the Kangaroos their first lead since late in the first quarter. Arlington senior Maddy Fischer drilled a 3 to put the Eagles back ahead 52-51, and Morrow followed with a steal and dished off to Villa for a lay-in and a three-point lead.

Kangaroos freshman Ashley Uusitalo answered back with a 3-pointer to tie it and Butler Wu hit the go-ahead triple following an Arlington turnover. The back-to-back 3s sparked a 15-1 run as Lake Washington pushed the lead to 66-55 with less than 1 minute left.

The Eagles pulled within 68-64 with 6.6 seconds remaining on a Villa 3-pointer, which ended a nearly 4-minute scoreless drought from the field, but Arlington couldn’t get any closer.

Lake Washington forced 11 Arlington turnovers in the second half and won the points-of-turnover battle 14-2 over the final 16 minutes. The Kangaroos shot 7 of 15 from beyond the arc in the second half after going 3-for-10 in the first.

“They went to that zone and extended a little bit and we struggled against it,” Marsh said. “Frankly that was the difference. And we just had too many breakdowns defensively. They shoot the ball so well and we just gave too many open looks, and I think that’s the difference there.”

The Eagles tied a single-game 3A girls state tournament record with 12 made 3-pointers.

Arlington grabbed a 14-10 lead after the first thanks to a pair of big plays by guard Rachel Snow. The junior chased down a rebound and saved it to Fischer for a layup and an 11-10 lead. Snow added a 3-pointer soon after.

Villa scored all eight of her first-half points in the second quarter, with her first bucket coming on a 3-pointer at the 5:56 mark. Another Villa 3 pushed the lead to 29-23. Citron cut it to 34-26 with a layup before the half.

The Eagles can claim their third consecutive third-place trophy with a victory Saturday.

“I’m really proud of these kids, great season,” Marsh said. “It’s really tough to lose for the third straight year in the semifinals. We really thought this was the year we were going to get through. Hats off to Lake Washington. They’re a great team.”

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